Last year, in April 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) launched the Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF), a £140 million grant that supports schools who need help improving performance and pupil attainment.
Applications for round three of the funding will close at midday on Friday 20th April 2018, but how do you know if you can apply? What can the funding pay for? What is the criteria for applications?
All these questions, and more, will be covered in this blog.
What is the Strategic-School-Improvement-Fund?
The SSIF has been introduced by the DfE to support all types of schools who are currently viewed as underperforming or are at risk of doing so. These schools can be any of the following:
- Nursery/ Primary/ Secondary/ Middle/ All-through Schools and Academies
- Alternative Provisions/ Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)
- Special schools and Academies
- Post-16 Academies
The grant will then help schools purchase support to target the resources that are needed to improve school performance and attainment, with a strong preference for this support to be school-led so that they can reach the funding’s aim of “support provided by schools, for schools”.
There are a number of activities this fund can be used for, including:
- Improving leadership and governance
- Refining teaching methods
- Enhancing financial health and efficiency
The DfE has stated that they expect schools, especially multi-academy trusts (MATs), teaching schools and national support schools to provide the majority of the support. Although, this is not a strict requirement, and schools can also source external providers to assist them.
Schools cannot however, use the funding to pay for any support or activities that are already covered in other DfE programmes such as: the Teaching and leadership Innovation Fund, the Northern Powerhouse, initial teacher training recruitment etc.
Who can apply?
Teaching schools, MATs and local authorities must apply for this fund to support underperforming schools in their control or in their local area. Before applying however, organisations must be aware of the guidelines set in place.
In order to be successful, each application must support at least four schools with at least 70% of these schools meeting the eligibility criteria, which include such things as:
- rated inadequate or requires improvement by Ofsted
- Located in an opportunity area
- Does not meet the 16-18 minimum standards.
IMPORTANT NOTE: For applications that are solely in support of special schools or PRUs, the 70% threshold does not apply because performance data does not always display the needs of these schools.
Another guideline for this funding states that 25% of the intended supported schools must not be part of the MAT, or due to join, and for applications that look to support over 20 schools, at least five schools must not be in the MAT.
All applicants must also have good financial health and must be able to demonstrate how they plan to use their funding effectively. A rationale should be given with the application to explain why the improvements are necessary, with details on what activities and providers you plan to use, and the expected cost.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The DfE has asked that all applicants make their Teaching Schools Council regional leads aware of their application so that they can avoid duplications.
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